The Russian Wagner mercenary company continues to use intermediaries to buy equipment in China for its activities in Ukraine and Africa.
This reveals the inability of Western sanctions to successfully cut supply streams from the group, Financial Times reports.
Wagner’s founder Yevgeny Prigozhin uses the Russia-based company called Broker Expert, which is free of any Western sanctions, as a front for procurements.
At the end of 2022, Broker Expert bought 20,000 helmets for Wagner from a minor Chinese company Hangzhou Shinerain Import And Export Co.
Through these channels, Prigozhin manages to equip and supply his contractors deployed in Ukraine, as well as in the Central African Republic and other African countries.
The Chinese company denied any knowledge of Broker Expert’s connection to Wagner, treating it as a regular sale. As a China-based entity, the company has no obligation to follow Western sanctions.
It is also unclear whether Beijing is aware of these activities.
Washington has previously voiced concern about China government aiding Russia’s war effort, and specifically about Chinese companies providing non-lethal aid.
The United States labeled Wagner as an “international criminal organization” and applied sanctions on entities connected to the mercenary group, seeking to disrupt its network.
The case of Broker Expert illustrates how Prigozhin continues to use loopholes in Western sanctions, using sanction-free fronts and third countries.
According to the U.S. estimates, Wagner fields around 50,000 contractors in Ukraine. They are responsible for numerous war crimes in Ukraine and have been sanctioned by Western countries.
The Kremlin grows increasingly reliant on the group as one of its more capable military forces. It appears that Prigozhin seeks to leverage this fact, as he more openly challenges Russian military and political leadership.